Monday, October 31, 2011

"Foreclosure grousing validates new law"

Rep. Bob Herkes' op-ed appeared in the Sunday Honolulu Star-Advertiser on October 30, 2011.

I commend the Star-Advertiser's Andrew Gomes for his coverage of Act 48, Hawaii's foreclosure reform. However, his article last Sunday, especially its headline, misses the mark ("New law flounders," Star-Advertiser, Oct. 23).

Criticism from lenders' attorneys shows this law is hitting them right in the pocketbook. Clearly, the loudest complainers are those who once profited from Hawaii's weak foreclosure laws.

Economist Paul Brewbaker and others have stated that Act 48 is a "failure" because banks are avoiding the dispute resolution program by refusing to foreclose non-judicially.

I disagree with such a narrow definition of "failure." On Oct. 13, Gomes reported that the overall foreclosure rate dropped 74 percent from a year ago. On Oct. 4, this paper reported that bankruptcies also plummeted, citing Act 48 as the likely cause.

The purpose of Act 48 is to level the playing field between lenders and borrowers in foreclosure. Act 48 has achieved that purpose.

Before Act 48, a home could be sold at auction in less than a month without the borrower's knowledge. Lender abuse was so rampant, the bill exploded to 100 pages so that we could address all the abuses. One bank was even so bold as to threaten a Hawaii legislator.

Because of Act 48, the old no-integrity-fast-track, non-judicial process is no longer available. Banks now seem to be either pursuing their foreclosures in court, where third-party oversight is ensured; or, they're actually working with homeowners without resorting to foreclosure.

Critics say the new non-judicial process is too onerous with too many details and requirements. Given the abuses, it's clear these details are necessary to protect homeowners.

One deterrent to going non-judicial is Act 48's Unfair or Deceptive Act or Practice (UDAP) provision that could put banks and their lawyers on the hook for triple damages for violations of the law. They say they can't handle the liability for a missed deadline or wrong font size. If the lawyers can't read a calendar or use a word processor, maybe they shouldn't have the privilege of taking someone's home without court oversight.

But I don't think it's the font or deadlines they're really worried about. What they're afraid to mention -- but is unique to Act 48's non-judicial process -- is the requirement that the banks provide documentation showing they have the legal authority to foreclose. I suspect the lawyers know full well that in many, if not most cases, the off-shore banks can't do this.

In their haste to profit from the loose lending, multiple transfers and the creation and sale of mortgage-backed securities, the banks have lost their paperwork. The media has exposed this. Emerging case law across the country shows that judges are aware of this, too. It is the liability for the banks' greed, carelessness, incompetence and outright fraud that the lawyers really fear.

Brewbaker thinks Act 48 is hurting the housing market, but has no data to back this up. Someone needs to explain to me how holding banks accountable, keeping families in their homes, and not flooding the market with homes repossessed through fraud and deception is not in the best interest of the people in Hawaii.

Rep. Robert Herkes (Kau, South Kona) chairs the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Who can? You can. Next on Kukui Connection

Who can? You can. That's this year's theme for October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Rep. Marilyn Lee talks with Nanci Kreidman, Chief Executive Officer of the the Domestic Violence Action Center, and Veroniki Geronimo, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The program airs on Sunday, October 30th at 4 p.m. Olelo Ch. 54. It repeats on November 6th and 13th.

Both agree that the state of domestic violence in Hawaii is "abysmal" with little investment into prevention efforts. There is an increase in demand for domestic violence services at the same time that funding for the agencies is going down. States across the nation are facing similar challenges.

the theme, Who can? You can, is meant to draw attention to the fact that the domestic violence is not a private issue, but a public one, and that the community needs to get involved and support those who need assistance.

Learn more about the five-year Domestic Violence Plan. It sets up a grassroots effort on all the islands through individual task forces.

Learn more about the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence on their website.

Capitol Ghost Stories 2011 - The Creepy Restroom

It's been a couple of years since I've been able to report a new Capitol ghost story. Most of them are legendary dating back from the construction of the capitol building. This year, as usual, I put out the call for any new stories, and I was thrilled, or should I say chilled, to receive several, but all having to do with the same location.

Here's what one person, a female office manager, wrote:

"Have you heard anything about the women's bathroom on the Chamber level? I was working late one night, and no one else was around. On the way home, I stopped and went into the women's bathroom before going to the parking lot.

I went into the first stall. About 30 seconds later I heard the hand blow dryer go on. Normally, it doesn't bother me when those things go off because they can be sensitive and turn on when someone is walking past them. But, I didn't pass the dryer and they are situated way over on the other side from the first stall, near the sinks. I got a little nervous, but tried to shrug it off.

When I went to wash my hands, I didn't want to look in the mirror. Suddenly, all the hair on my arms, legs and head started to tingle and felt like they were all standing up. I left the bathroom and hurried to the parking lot, praying that nothing was following me. I have never gone in there again, and whenever I pass it, I walk very fast."

A second female office manager told a similar story:

"Late one night I was heading home and stopped in the women's restroom on the Chamber level. All of a sudden I heard the water faucet go on. I thought it was odd because no one else was in the restroom and I didn't hear any footsteps. "

When I mentioned on Twitter that I was hearing creepy stories about that particular women's restroom, I immediately got some feedback. Such as:

"I am not surprised that you heard of creepy chamber level women's restroom stories. Sometimes I swore someone was there."

"When I was a leg. aide, I distinctly remember the bathrooms being pretty creepy. Ha ha."

And finally, this comment: "No story, but I always had the same creepy feeling."

I checked it out the other day, and I found the restroom to be clean, well-maintained, and well-lit. Of course, it was mid-afternoon and not past the witching hour. If you want to check it out yourself, the "creepy" restroom is on the mauka/ewa side of the building on the Chamber (bottom) level of the Hawaii State Capitol. Let us know if you have your own experience to share. Oops, I guess you can't do that if you're a guy. Here's a video of my visit:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hawaii film industry, take two

Mark Dacascos, the actor who plays the fictional villain Wo Fat on Hawaii Five-0, was spotted today at the Hawaii State Capitol with friend Chris Lee, film producer and founder of the University of Hawaii's Academy for Creative Media. Lee was part of a panel of experts discussing the film industry in Hawaii at a House informational briefing.

As Hawaii Five-0, The River, and other big productions begin filming on the islands, House lawmakers  continue to hold informational briefings to learn about what is being done to grow and nurture the industry as well as what needs to be improved and what kinds of legislation will be proposed during the upcoming legislative session. Today's meeting was the second in a series of briefings during the interim.

If you're unfamiliar with Act 88, the current law giving incentives and tax credits to production companies who film in the state, here's the basics. It is a refundable tax credit for qualified film, television, commercial, or digital media projects. The credit equals 15% of qualified production costs incurred on Oahu, and 20% on the neighbor islands. There is a $200, 000 minimum expenditure requirement and a maximum cap of $8 million in rebates.

It looks like the Creative Industries Division in the State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism will be proposing legislation to raise the tax credit for workforce development and seek capital improvement project funds for a studio. It was also mentioned that the law should not exclude internet-based productions from the tax credit.

Rep. Angus McKelvey suggested tailoring the tax credit to require post-production to be done in Hawaii.

Chris Lee reiterated several times how Hawaii needs more infrastructure: a larger industry workforce and buildings/ studios for the production companies.

The meeting ended with a discussion about connecting youth performing arts programs to college programs and local projects.

Jobs - Hiring for the 2012 Session

Who wouldn't want to work with these friendly and helpful folks?! This is the House recruiting team that you will meet at the various Job Fairs around the state. From left to right are Emma Perry (Journal), Rupert Juarez (Records) and Matthew Hanabusa (Tech Support)
2012 Classified Ad

The Hawaii Legislature has posted notices for House and Senate session jobs. Above is the notice for House of Representatives. More information can be found on the Legislature's website.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Political Leaders' Use and Abuse of Social Media"

We wanted to share an excellent TEDx talk by Matthias Lufkens, social media architect at the World Economic Forum. Very interesting examples of world leaders who use social media in varying degrees of effectiveness. I particularly liked this line:

"Our world leaders, on social networks, when they do it personally, become human and accessible, and this is something for the man-in-the-street, something absolutely revolutionary. Because, today, we can simply send them an @ mention to get in contact with them, and my wish for the TED community is that you go out and you contact your leaders on Twitter and Facebook." Matthias Lufkens, @luefkens

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Social Media tools can pose problems for lawmakers

Like any tool, the advantages and disadvantages lie in how it's used. One of the stories in the current issue of State Legislatures is about social media and becoming aware of some of the problems and pitfalls you may encounter - as lawmakers and staff.

Read the full story here.

For example, Shirley, a lawmaker, used Facebook as a campaign tool. When the election was over, she continued to use her Facebook page to communicate with constituents. Some of the questions to ask are:

*Can a government official use Facebook as a way to discuss public issues?
*If so, can an official limit access to such a Facebook page in any way?
*Do all members of the public have a right to see what is on a publicly maintained Facebook page? What about a completely personal one?
*Can an office holder "unfriend" certain individuals or remove selected posts on a publicly maintained Facebook page?
*If a Facebook page is completely personal, must the official confine all comments to personal rather than public matters?

The article gives another example on using blogs, as well as General Principles and ethical guidelines for legislative staff. Most legislative offices use social media in one form or another as a communications tool. It's a good reminder on always using social media with awareness and common sense.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rep. Jo Jordan's Fall 2011 Newsletter

Jordan Fall 2011 Community Newsletter

Friday, October 14, 2011

House Finance on Kauai 2011

Chair Marcus Oshiro and members of the Finance Committee have been visiting sites on Oahu and Kauai recently in preparation for the 2012 session. They will be going next to Maui and the Big Island. In the photos below, in addition to Chair Oshiro, are Representatives Pono Chong, Isaac Choy, Ty Cullen, Sharon Har, Jo Jordan, Derek Kawakami, Dee Morikawa, Gil Riviere, James Tokioka, and Kyle Yamashita. (Mahalo Rep. Kawakami's office for providing names of the Kauai hosts.)

House Finance Committee members at Smith's Boat Service, Kamika Smith - General Manager

House Finance members with Kauai Taro Farmers - Michael Fitzgerald, Rodney, Karol and Lindsey Haraguchi, Charles and Diana Spencer, Mark Koga and Mr. Koga

House Finance members at Limahuli Gardens, Kawika Winter - General Manager

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Should ziplines be regulated?

One to watch for next session...

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Rep. Mark Nakashima plans to re-introduce legislation in 2012 that proposes state regulation of zipline businesses. See story here.

A recent accident in Hilo at the Lava Hotline site reignites the issue of whether zipline activities should be subject to state guidelines for safety reasons. A worker who was injured on September 21 while trying to tighten a zipline cable was released from the hospital yesterday, but the business remains closed pending further investigation.

The bill introduced last year is HB1246. It adds ziplines under the category of "amusement rides" which are currently regulated under the boiler and elevator safety law. It also requires that zipline business carry liability insurance by a carrier licensed to do business in Hawaii. The bill was co-introduced by other Big Island representatives Chang, Evans, Hanohano, Herkes and Tsuji.

According to the Star Advertiser:

"Nakashima has consulted with Steve Gustafson, a board member of Professional Ropes Course Association, which has drafted a set of standards for ziplining courses and submitted them to the American National Standards Institute. Nakashima said he plans to use those standards in his bill.

Gustafson's company, Experienced Based Learning, has built five zipline courses in Hawaii, including one at World Botanical Gardens, seven miles from the Lava Hotline site."

Here's a look at the World Botanical site:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Will Hawaii ban tanning beds for minors?

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law this week a measure that would prevent children under the age of 18 from using tanning beds. The law takes effect on January 1. At least 31 states regulate the use of tanning facilities for minors; Hawaii isn’t one of them.

Supporters of the ban contend that children overexposed to ultraviolet light have a higher chance of developing skin cancer later in life. Those in opposition of tanning restrictions for minors argue that bans will hurt businesses.

Reps. Mele Carroll and Faye Hanohano introduced a measure (HB653) similar to that of California during the 2009 and 2010 sessions. However, the bill never made it to a committee hearing in the House Health Committee. Will we see this issue, if introduced, go further in the 2012 session given California’s move to set a higher age limit?

Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website for a list of laws restricting minors from tanning facilities in other states.

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Outstanding Advocates for Children

Pamela Young with Sen. Chun Oakland, Rep. Thielen, Rep. Mizuno, Sen. Pohai, and Sen. Ching
Thirteen individuals and organizations were honored today at the 2011 Outstanding Advocates for Children and Youth Luncheon held at Washington Place.

2011 Outstanding Advocates for Children and Youth Recipients

The Hawaii Meth Project – Cindy Adams has been the Executive Director of the Hawaii Meth Project, a non-profit organization utilizing public service messaging and community outreach to prevent methamphetamine use in Hawaii. Cindy has also created the Teen Advisory Council made up of students across the state to help the organization grow. The campaign "Not Even Once" has been a success in poster contest, media outlets, in schools and businesses. Because of Cindy, many teens make the right choice to be "meth free" and therefore, our community has been a safer and better place for our youth. Nominated by Colby Takeda.

Adult Friends for Youth was established in 1985 at the University of Hawaii as a volunteer mentoring program for at risk children. Today Adult Friends for Youth promotes educational achievement and offers a prescription of hope for significantly reducing poverty and destructive behaviors among at risk youth. AFY also provides for a Clinical Competency Based High School Diploma Program which provides students who have dropped out of high school the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma. AFY has reduced youth substance abuse and gang-related activities and have help at risk youth attain their educational and career goals and improved our community. Nominated by Ronald Oyama.

Malcolm Ching with family, friends and guests.
Malcolm Ching has been a visionary youth and family leader establishing the Hawaii Civil Air Patrol Wing Encampment which trains youth leadership development, aerospace education, emergency response and preparedness and the importance of community service. Often, a cadet's completion of this Encampment Program will provide them with the opportunity to receive advanced placement as an enlisted member within our Armed Services, advanced college credit within a college ROTC program, or support in an application to one of our prestigious military academies. Nominated by Rep. Ryan Yamane.

Graham Builders is a locally owned design/build firm which has, for the past 11 years, hosted and organized the annual holiday dinners for the Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation, ensuring all children in each family receives a gift, even siblings of the cancer-stricken children. A special recognition to Danny Graham, CEO of Graham Builders, along with his wife, Charlotte, who took on the task of organizing Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation's annual holiday party. Nominated by Tracy Aiwohi.

Joshua Beal has shared his time to AccessSurf Hawaii every month to help deaf and handicapped children learn to surf and has been teaching American Sign Language to at risk youth from the Waianae area. Joshua Beal also delivers hot meals to the homeless during his free time. Nominated by Amy Hammond.

Help the Hawaii Homeless is a homeless service organization which seeks to assist homeless children, youth and families by way of services to coordinating communities opportunities and partnerships with a number of local agencies to provide essential services to homeless families in Hawaii. This program also sponsors return flights to reunify families and reduce homelessness in Hawaii. Nominated by Tisha Woytenko.

Kea'au Youth Business Center (KYBC) has served over 500 youth, won several state and national awards, produced approximately 30 PSAs and documentaries dealing with youth social issues like smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, domestic violence, and environmental issues such as recycling. KYBC gives economically disadvantaged youth access to state-of-the-art facility with quality equipment and professional trainers in areas such as digital media, art, culinary arts, music and recording. Nominated by Eugene McElroy.

Louise Kido Iwaishi, M.D. has been a champion for special needs children and as a pediatrician has served many special needs children. She is an advisor on the Good Beginnings Alliance board and on the Hawaii Early Intervention Coordinating Council and trains pediatricians in Hawaii. Dr. Iwaishi advocates for child health issues related to federal Title V Children with Special Health Care Needs as well as Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment, Autism Services Implementation and Children's Oral Health. Nominated by Annette Mente, Leolinda Parlin, Patricia Heu, and Keiki Nitta.

Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (KKV) provides holistic and comprehensive healthcare to the residents of Kalihi Valley, many immigrant youth and families who may lack insurance. KKV established the 100 acre park for learning opportunities for the youth in farming, exercise, reconnection with the land, and restoring ancient sites in Hawaii. In addition to healthcare for youth, KKV has been instrumental in educating Hawaii's youth on understanding the Hawaiian cultural values, the ecology, and unity by working together. Nominated by Judith Clark.

Pamela Young anchors KITV 4 News on the weekends and has been an 11-time Emmy winner and Peabody recipient and produces Mixed Plate which displays her critically acclaimed local prime time specials. Pamela Young is a well-respected and high profile personality news reporter and journalist, who has touched the lives of many in Hawaii with her empathy and passion, especially when featuring stories directly affecting Hawaii's youth on issues such as education and safety issues for Hawaii's Keiki. Moreover, Pamela Young has supported Sounding Joy Music Therapy, which provides for stimulating music therapy in rehabilitation for children and youth who suffer from a mental or physical ailment. Nominated by Keiko Kajiwara.

Certificates of recognition were given to Uncle "Mel" Murata, Bonnie "Pua" Case and Ewa Beach PONY Bronco Division Coaches.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hawaii needs more federal funding for COFA migrants

Today, Representative John Mizuno held an informational briefing to review the human services issues related to migrants living in Hawaii under the Compact of Free Association (COFA), which defines the relationship between the U.S. and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

The issue: the inadequacy of federal government funding to pay for COFA migrants’ medical and social services costs.

It was reported in a 2007 Department of the Attorney General study that the cost of providing all state services to COFA migrants was about $100 million a year. The Department of Human Services alone expended $52 million in COFA services in 2010. This year the state received only $11.2 million in grant funds.

Governor Neil Abercrombie is appealing a case that reinstated Med-QUEST for migrant immigrants this past January. The former administration placed COFA migrants in a program called Basic Health Hawaii, a less-costly, less-comprehensive health insurance program. A spokeswoman for the governor, however, has said that the administration will appeal "but has no intention to continue Basic Health Hawaii,” reported the online news publication Civil Beat.

Lawmakers and panelists discussed possible solutions to address the high costs to the state.

"The briefing was informative, however we have much to do as we seek to ensure essential healthcare for the Pacific Islanders while securing our fair share in costs from the federal government," said Rep. Mizuno.

They ideas discussed include:

1.) Seek an amendment of COFA to include greater reimbursement from the federal government.
2.) Work with state, federal, and private agencies for support and funding to invest in dialysis and chemotherapy centers in the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau to allow proper healthcare treatment services for their citizens.
3.) Liberty Dialysis, one of two medical center providers of dialysis services in Hawaii, has indicated their willingness to continue dialysis treatment coverage to COFA citizens if the state no longer pays for such coverage. Not certain how long Liberty Dialysis could sustain such services without pay.
4.) Continue talks with federal medical centers and the U.S. Department of Interior on the possibility of federal hospitals accepting COFA citizens for dialysis and chemotherapy treatment.
5.) Work with the home state government of Marshall Islands, the Federated State of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau on funding options for their citizens in Hawaii.
6.) Work with the state's administration and the Hawaii's congressional delegation on reducing costs and greater funding from the federal government.

Recognizing Hawaii achievers in Nevada

Shawn Toyozaki and Rep. John Mizuno

Rep. John Mizuno presented Certificates of Appreciation to former Hawaii residents who now live in Las Vegas, Nevada, and who have made significant contributions in both states.

Shawn Toyozaki and his wife Racquel Chung-Toyozaki both graduated from the University of Hawaii. Racquel also received a law degree from the U.H. Richardson School of Law. They started a company in Nevada called Advance Pro Remediation Co. - a building inspection business specializing in fire, water and mold restoration, structural dry-downs, and mold removal. Both Shawn and Racquel remain connected to Hawaii's community and contribute to Adult Friends for Youth. This organization works to help youth get out of gangs and directs them to trade school or college.

Rep. John Mizuno, John Wright and Jean Moriki

John Wright and Jean Moriki practice criminal defense law with the law firm of Wright and Weiner in Las Vegas. Rep. Mizuno worked with both Wright and Moriki as law clerks in 1991-1992 at the First Circuit Court, Hawaii Judiciary. Both practiced law in Hawaii before moving to Nevada.

John and Jean do volunteer work by holding educational meetings focusing on the democratic process, the rights of individuals, families, small businesses, and are great advocates for the right to vote to effect social change. John has also served as a per diem judge in Clark County.